New Gloucester selectmen blast MTA for ‘wiping us off the map’

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NEW GLOUCESTER – Maine Turnpike Authority officials were blasted by selectmen Monday night for a plan to replace signs for New Gloucester with ones for Windham and Gray.

The only New Gloucester sign along the turnpike will be one prior to Exit 63 northbound in Gray. Coming south, there will be no sign for New Gloucester.

“You’re wiping us off the map significantly and there’s nothing I can do as a selectman,” board Chairman Josh McHenry said.

The changes are part of a four-year plan to replace all signs from Mile 1 in York to Mile 106 in Augusta to meet new federal regulations, MTA project manager Ralph Norwood IV and director of policy and planning Bruce A. Van Note told selectmen.

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The reason for adding signs for Windham is it has a larger population, the officials said.

“There’s nothing we can do here, we’re at the short end of the stick,” Selectman Steve Libby said.

The MTA will also replace signs for schools, theme parks, civic centers, historic sites and other tourism-related designations. Each of those signs will cost the entity $500 per year.

The Shaker Village signs before Exit 63 northbound and Exit 75 southbound will come down next summer and the Pineland sign at Exit 63 northbound will be removed in the spring.

“This is going to affect business,” Libby said. “This is a bad deal for our businesses.”

“The logo signs, especially with the Shakers, (means) you’re trying to squeeze to get blood out of a stone,” McHenry said. “The Shakers are a huge part of our community. I am frustrated with this situation.”

Town Manager Paul First said, “You’re talking about the last living Shaker in the world and as a state, we should celebrate.”

Selectmen also said the barrier toll in New Gloucester adds to the problem for the town, because trucks traveling north get off in Gray to avoid the toll and use Route 100 to get to Auburn. There, they can return to the turnpike without paying a toll.

“I curse you for that exit,” Selectman Laura Sturgis, who lives along Route 100, said. “So many trucks are on our road, and it infuriates me.”

Van Note said he would work with selectmen.

The officials said the schedule for sign changes is:

2016: Exit 109 to Exit 75.

2017: Exit 63 to Exit 46

2018-19: Exit 45 to Exit 1.

“I will hold the MTA feet to the fire regarding this,” Rep. Ellie Espling, R-New Gloucester, said.

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